Quite a few antivirusproducts have gotten a complete user interface makeover to align with the Windows 8 style, tile-based and touch-friendly. Not Outpost Antivirus Pro 9.0 ($29.95 direct; $39.95 for three licenses); it looks just the same as the previous version. But, in my testing, it didn’t perform as well as the last time around.
There are some changes in this version; they’re just not visible. When installing on an infested system, Outpost Antivirus Pro can remove malware during installation. It now has the ability to install and run in Safe Mode, in case resistant malware prevents normal installation. In a situation where Windows won’t boot, or malware has totally taken over, you can use the new Agnitum Live Disk, a bootable rescue CD. The documentation also promises a “major upgrade to the URL Blacklist,” though I didn’t observe this in testing.
Features Shared with Firewall
Quite a few of the antivirus product’s features are also found in Outpost Firewall Pro 9.0. I’ll summarize those here; see the firewall review for full details of my testing and experiences.
Both products include System Guard and Anti-Leak. System Guard watches for attempts to access sensitive system areas and pops up green, yellow, or red warnings, color-coding for risk level. The user can choose to block or allow the access, or terminate the process completely. Anti-Leak serves a similar purpose, but specifically aims at inter-process communication techniques sometimes used by malware.
The problem is, these two features flag good and bad programs alike. Choosing to block everything can interfere with installing or running valid programs. Choosing to allow lower-risk green and yellow warnings but block red ones can still interfere with valid programs; doing so will also give a pass to some malicious programs.
If you leave the antivirus in its default Auto-learn mode, you won’t see any of these warnings. The product will not only allow all activities, it will create rules so those activities can still happen even when you switch off Auto-learn. That means a malicious program that’s already installed and that gets past the antivirus scan will have free rein.
I tried installing 20 PCMag utilities with Auto-learn turned off. As with the firewall, the antivirus popped up warnings for all but two of them, averaging four warnings apiece. The only difference was that the antivirus actively identified one of our utilities as malware. Seriously! That’s not good.
The ID Block feature is designed to prevent transmission of your private data by an info-stealing Trojan, or by a user. The sensitive data items you enter are encrypted and never displayed again. Outpost can either replace the data with asterisks or block the network packets completely. However, it can’t handle secure (HTTPS) transmission, so a Trojan using HTTPS would bypass it completely, and most Web-based email services also use encryption.
No Help from Independent Labs
I always put each antivirus product through its paces for hands-on experience, but I rely on the independent testing labs as well. The innovative tests by AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, and Dennis Technology Labs in particular do a good job of evaluating how a product will perform in the field.
Unfortunately, Agnitum only participates in testing by one lab, Virus Bulletin. Agnitum submitted Outpost for testing in six of the last twelve tests, and it achieved VB100 certification in five of those. That’s decent, but just not enough information for me to work up an aggregate labs score. The chart below summarizes test results for current products. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) and Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2014) are particularly impressive, with top scores from all the labs. For an explanation of how I boil down many different tests into the rating categories in the chart, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.
Outpost Antivirus Pro 9.0 lab tests chart
Dismal Malicious URL Blocking
A few months ago I started testing each antivirus product using very new malicious URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. Typically these are no more than four hours old. Normally I wind up testing each antivirus with a different (but equally fresh) set of URLs, but this time I was able to run my tests on Outpost, Panda Antivirus Pro 2014, and VIPRE Antivirus 2014 simultaneously.
I expected good results from Outpost, given that the Agnitum website promised a “major upgrade to URL BlackList” and “a new URL processing algorithm.” It didn’t turn out that way. Outpost didn’t actually block access to any URLs, and eliminated a mere 8 percent of the malicious executables during the download process. That undercuts the previous low score of 17 percent, earned by Panda.
VIPRE did quite a bit better, blocking 14 percent of the URLs and wiping out another 25 percent during download. The corresponding suite, VIPRE Internet Security 2014, was even more effective, blocking fully 64 percent, most at the URL level. avast! Free Antivirus 2014 remains the champ in this test; it blocked 79 percent of the malicious downloads, most at the URL level.
Tepid Local Malware Blocking
I continue to run my malware blocking test using local samples, of course. When I opened the folder of samples, Outpost quickly wiped out 72 percent of them. I went ahead and launched the rest. Outpost detected some as malware; for others, it displayed some behavior-related warnings. Based on my experience with valid programs, I clicked Allow for low-risk behavior and Block for red-flagged high-risk behaviors.
Outpost detected 91 percent of the malware samples, either on sight or during installation. However, several of the samples managed to place executable files on the test system, and one even managed to launch and run despite Outpost’s attempt at blocking. Its overall score of 8.5 points reflects these problems.
As you can see in the chart below, most current antivirus products scored better than Outpost in this test. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that the samples are now many months old. VIPRE has the best score with this set of samples, a perfect 10 of 10 possible points. AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014, Avira Free AntiVirus (2014), and Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 all managed 97 percent detection. AVG, Avira, and several others scored 9.4 points. For details on the source of these scores, please see How We Test Malware Blocking.
Outpost Antivirus Pro 9.0 malware blocking chart
Handling Entrenched Malware
As I noted above, several of the enhancements in this version of Outpost relate to dealing with malware that’s already present when the product is installed. That makes sense; there are certainly customers who purchase the product specifically because they’ve noticed a malware problem.
Outpost’s installer now includes a pre-install scan that aims to wipe out any active malware that might interfere with the installation process. If necessary, it can now install in Safe Mode and run a full scan. The Agnitum Live Disk bootable rescue system can clean a PC even when ransomware has taken over, or when Window won’t boot. Of course, you’ll need to create the bootable antivirus on a clean system.
If all else fails, tech support can supply a no-install scanner and a set of diagnostic tools. If all else fails, many vendors will offer remote-control remediation by tech support, among them Norton AntiVirus (2014), Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2014), and VIPRE. Not Agnitum. You’ll contact support via email and online forums, but they won’t reach in and fix problems.
No Reason to Buy
At $29.95 for one license, Outpost Antivirus Pro 9.0 costs a bit less than some of its competition. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2014) cost $10 more; Norton AntiVirus (2014) is $20 more. I’d say definitely go ahead and pay more for one of these Editors’ Choice products, because they all give you much better protection than Outpost.
Still worried about price? OK, consider our Editors’ Choice for free antivirus, AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014. It’ll do a better job, and remote-control remediation is available from AVG tech support if you need it.
|Tech Support||Email and self-support forum|
|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8|
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc